- Last updated on 2016.05.22 by Frans Janssens
Checklist of the Collembola: Synanthropic Collembola, Springtails in Association with Man

Frans Janssens, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, B-2020, Belgium
Kenneth A. Christiansen, Department of Biology, Grinnell College, PO Box V3, Grinnell, IA 50112-0806, USA


Survey of reports on synanthropic Collembola living in close association with man.


Overzicht van publicaties over Collembola in associatie met de mens.

Keywords: Collembola, human infestations, synanthropic.


Fig.0. Dicyrtomina saundersi from the UK in palm of hand.
2007.11.17 © Edwards, A.
Collembola as skin irritants or skin parasites deserve much more scientific scrutiny. Given that the psychotic variant of such infestation has received a lot more scientific interest than the actual infestation itself, risks are that some infestations are too easely categorised as delusional. The main reason is obvious: nothing or very little is known about irritating, allergic or parasitic Collembola that cause contact dermatitis. Only a few cases are actually documented and therefore money for further scientific research is wanting.

The following is a list of records quoted from references that describe Collembola associated with man. The records are grouped in a classification system based on the 'grade of association'. For each class, the records are ordered on authority. For each authority, as long as the original publication could not be verified, referencing authors are ordered chronologically.


In this report, we have adopted the term infestation as defined by Pratt & Smith: parasitism by parasites which are attached to the skin or temporarily invade superficial tissues. In contrast, parasitism of body tissues, intestine, or atria is generally called infection.

The infestations are classified as domestic infestations (Collembola found in houses), incidental human infestations (infestations through pot plants in the bedroom, infestations by malfunctioning pooters, mouth operated aspirators), human infestations not associated with dermatitis and human infestations associated with dermatitis. In addition, one could also consider the delusional infestations (psychotic infestations) and the infestations due to 'sample contamination' (clinical errors, laboratory errors).

Not included are records from gardens, greenhouses, compost, botanical gardens, cultivated fields, etc. These are considered to be horticultural or agricultural infestations, and are therefore not taken into account in this report. Also not included are records from swimming pools.

Domestic infestations

Fig.1. Swarm of Ceratophysella sigillata in front of a house in Landl, Austria.
Photograph Moortgat R. © 1998.
Collembola are pests principally by virtue of their presence in the home. Collembola are usually found outdoors in moist situations, feeding on algae, fungi, and decaying vegetable matter.
If their environment becomes dry, then in the course of their active crawling in search of moisture, Collembola may invade the home, entering through window screens, open doors, vent pipes, or with merchandise or ornamental plants. They may be attracted to light, entering through windows or under doors. After a hot day, they may swarm over the side of a building in tremendous numbers, increasing the chance of indoor infestation. After entering a house, they crawl about, and are often trapped in sinks, washbasins, and bathtubs. They are most commonly found where there are sources of moisture, as in the kitchen and bathroom, where they hide in very small cracks and crevices. They may also occur in damp wall voids. In some homes, potted plants serve as sources, the Collembola coming from the damp soil (Scott et al., 1962; Ebeling, 1975).
Infestation of buildings with Collembola can be heavy. Random floor areas selected out of walkways may reveal an average of 10 springtails per square foot. Similar concentrations can be noted on window sills and on shelves. Bathtubs and other white surfaces show these tiny arthropods clearly, but they are seldom noticed on floors unless they are searched for. (Scott, 1966:20).

Ideal conditions for Collembola result from high humidity in conjunction with excessive organic debris. In addition to whatever nutritive material that may be present in the organic matter, mildew spores can form, contributing further sustenance. Collembola infestations can be suspected whenever mildew odors are detectable. Infestations tend to increase during hot, humid weather, and decrease during cold weather when the heating system dries the air and the building structure. Even during the drier periods, however, springtails may be found in great abundance around the insulations of steam and water pipes (Scott et al., 1962; Scott, 1966:20; Ebeling, 1975).

Arnaud, P.H.Jr & Davies, T.W. (1980:155-156) cited from Greenslade, P. (1995:256) California:
"For instance, shower curtains have been described as "black" with these animals [Entomobrya unostrigata = Entomobrya kanaba] (ARNAUD, DAVIES 1980)."

Balazuc et al. (1951) cited from Gisin (1962:20) France:
"d'innombrables spécimens dans un viel établi en bois dans une carrière souterraine de la région parisienne cités par BALAZUC ET AL. (Vie et Milieu, 2, 1951:317) sous le nom de Entomobraya[(sic)] guthriei ( = subpurpurascens)."
Cited from Ellis (1974:233-234):
"Gisin, 1962, discusess three similar cases [of Entomobryoides purpurascens (PACKARD, 1873)] in Paris and Genève."

Busvine, J. (1951:421-422) Britain:
"The domestic collembola (i.e. sometimes occuring in houses) such as Hypogastrura purpurascens[sic] Lubbock, thrive between temperatures of 3 degrees C. (37 degrees F.) and 15 degrees C. (59 degrees F.). They are resistant to low temperature and cold death occurs at -5 degrees to -15 degrees C. (23 to 5 degrees F.)."
"An American pest-control operator described an infestation of Seira nigromaculata in decayed insulation of a refrigeration plant. This was eradicated by injecting the insulating material at six foot intervals with a 5% solution of rotenone in methyl formate. 18"

Note that Busvine misspelled 'purpurescens' as 'purpurascens'.
Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430):
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Entomobryoides purpurascens (Packard 1873), by Busvine 1951"

Note that Scott & al. referenced in error another collembolan species (probably due to Busvine's incorrect spelling).

Busvine, J.R. (1966:419-20) Britain:
"The domestic collembola (i.e. sometimes occuring in houses) such as Hypogastrura purpurescens Lubbock, thrive between temperatures of 3 degrees C. (37 degrees F.) and 15 degrees C. (59 degrees F.). They are resistant to low temperature and cold death occurs at -5 degrees to -15 degrees C. (23-25 degrees F.)."
"An American pest-control operator described an infestation of Seira nigromaculata in decayed insulation of a refrigeration plant. This was eradicated by injecting the insulating material at 6-foot intervals with a 5% solution of rotenone in methyl formate. (40)"

Christiansen, K. (1998 in 2001:in litt.) California & Indiana:
"I have two validated cases of house infestations by species of Lepidocyrtus, one from California and one from Indiana. Oddly, two different species are involved: Lepidocyrtus floridensis and Lepidocyrtus fimicolus. Neither has previously been reported from buildings. In both cases the inhabitants claimed the Collembola were responsible for human infestation but no specimens were collected from their bodies. The collections were from their houses but were both in large numbers."

Christiansen, K. & Bellinger, P. (1980:921) North America:
"Willowsia buski (Lubbock), 1870 ... This species is most common in man-made structures ..."

Christiansen, K.A., Janssens, F. & Jones, D. (1999) Florida:
"This publication is an attempt to report as detailed as possible the where abouts of a domestic infestation in a house in Florida by a neotropical entomobryid springtail Seira brasiliana (Arlé, 1939) Marcus, 1949 that is apparently extending its geographical range on the northern hemisphere as well as its range of habitats."
"The springtail specimens have been collected by the junior author in and around his house in the St Peterburg area in Florida, US on 1999.06.05-06. The springtails have been collected some from inside the bathroom, some from the outside walls around the pool, and the majority of them from around the outside wall of the bedroom window."

Colwell, C. in Christiansen (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Indiana:
"... I inspected the home [in Indiana] earlier this week and found no live springtails, nor any in the 40-some sticky monitor traps our Technician had previously placed. However, the homeowner did have two containers of hundreds of dead springtails, presumably of the variety you identified [Lepidocyrtus fimicolus].
My conclusion from questioning the homeowner and observing conditions present in and around the home leads me to believe that the 'infestation' originated from outside, specifically around the foundation. The infestation seems to be sporadic and correlated with excessive moisture events outside; heavy rain earlier, and thawing snow a couple weeks ago.
I believe the springtails were washed from soil and debris around the foundation, somehow managed to find their way through the foundation and into the basement where large numbers of them, mostly dead, accumulated for example on a table top next to the foundation wall. Sightings elsewhere in the house I attribute to transport of household items from the basement. We will be suggesting moisture reduction strategies to the homeowner, and providing exterior perimeter sprays of pyrethroids around the foundation."

Denis (1934) cited from Gisin (1962:20-21) France:
"un grand nombre d'exemplaires dans une maison près de Paris signalés par DENIS (1934) sous le nom de Entomobrya subpurpurascens Denis"
"CHRISTIANSEN (1958) a vu les spécimens de DENIS et affirme leur identité avec E. purpurascens, forme décrite de l'Amerique du Nord, ce qui fait dire cet auteur qu'en Europe l'espèce est introduite par l'homme."

Cited from Ellis (1974:233-234):
"Gisin, 1962, discusess three similar cases [of Entomobryoides purpurascens (PACKARD, 1873)] in Paris and Genève."

Ellis (1974:233-234,235) the Netherlands:
"Of the species that occur in or associated with houses, I mention a mass occurence of Entomobryoides purpurascens (PACKARD, 1873) in a house at Eindhoven. (Gisin, 1962, discusses three similar cases in Paris and Genève). Another occasional plaque in houses is Bourletiella hortensis. Twice Willowsia buski (LUBBOCK, 1869) is found as a synanthropic. Seira domestica (NICOLET, 1841) is in the Netherlands restricted to houses, where it is found not infrequently, though never in any number."
"... The species [Bourletiella hortensis] is rather often found in synanthropic situations (probably in connection with its preference for almost bare habitats): on pavements, gravel roads, sport fields, flat roofs covered with gravel, etc. From the last habitat they are often driven by drought down into the houses, where they may suddenly appear in vast and most annoying numbers. Each year some of these cases are brought to my attention."

Fay, R.W. in Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Entomobrya griseo-olivata[sic] (Packard 1873), by Fay 1958
Fay, R.W. 1958. Personal communication."

Fjellberg, A. (1980:55,77,85,93,116,119,121,134) Norway:
p.55: "Onychiurus cebennarius Gisin, 1956 ... in flower pot in a house"
p.77: Folsomia candida (Willem, 1902) ... In flower pot in a house in Bergen."
p.85: "Cryptopygus bipunctatus (Axelson, 1903) ... Also reported from a flower pot in a house at N.Fron (Oppland)."
p.93: "Proisotoma minuta (Tullberg, 1871) ... Also in flower pots indoor."
p.116: "Entomobrya spectabilis Reuter, 1890 ... Under flower pots, etc. Indoor."
p.119: "Willowsia buski (Lubbock, 1869) ... Sometimes indoor."
"Willowsia nigromaculata (Lubbock, 1873) ... A frequent species in houses. More rare outdoor ..."
"Willowsia platani (Nicolet, 1841) ... Reported by Lie Pettersen (1896) from a house at Romarheim in Hosanger (Hordaland). Probably rare."
p.121: "Lepidocyrtus ruber Schött, 1902 ... Some records from greenhouses and flower pots in E and W.Norway."
p.134: "Sminthurinus niger (Lubbock, 1876) ... I have seen some specimens collected in flower pots in a house at Bergen."
"Sminthurinus trinotatus Axelson, 1905 ... Some specimens in flower pots in a house near Bergen."

Gisin, H. (1962:20-21) Swiss:
"Genève, en pleine ville, quartier des Eaux-Vives, maison locative située pas loin d'un grand peuplier, des centaines de spécimens [de Entomobrya purpurascens (PACKARD, 1873)] dans une cuvette placée sous un chauffe-eau dans la salle de bains, début de septembre 1961, leg. M. Mamboury. Ces exemplaires appartiennent à la forme B de CHRISTIANSEN, c.-à.d. le pigment violet forme des bandes transversales aux bords postérieurs des segments."
Cited from Ellis (1974:233-234):
"Gisin, 1962, discusess three similar cases [of Entomobryoides purpurascens (PACKARD, 1873)] in Paris and Genève."

Greenslade, P. (1995:247,248,250,255,256) Australia:
p.247: "Entomobrya unostrigata STACH is one of the most abundant and widely-distributed collembolan species on agricultural land in southern Australia. It was collected for the first time in Australia in January 1941 from a military hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, where it was numerous, but misidentified as Entomobrya tenuicauda SCHÖTT, (PESCOTT 1942)."
p.248: the misidentification with Entomobrya unostrigata is defined as such:
"As Entomobrya tenuicauda nec SCHÖTT 1917 sensu PESCOTT 1942."
p.250: "Entomobrya unostrigata has been confused with E. tenuicauda SCHÖTT 1917, described from Queensland, which also has a reduced anteapical tooth to the mucro. However, E. tenuicauda differs in having broader dark pigment bands on the posterior margins of the thoracic and abdominal segments and two distinct bands on abd. IV, in the lack of a dorsal medial stripe or pigment on vertex of head and smaller size, <2mm compared with >2mm for E. unostrigata (SCHÖTT 1917 Fig. 16)."
p.256: "Records of E. unostrigata causing a nuisance in dwellings were first made in 1941 (PESCOTT 1942) where it was said to be "causing itch" in a hospital. Since then, it has been reported as infesting houses on several occasions (ARNAUD, DAVIES 1980, Fig. 3, 4) and it is the most frequently recorded Collembolan from houses in Australia (P. GREENSLADE, unpublished data). On several additional occasions it was said to be causing irritation to the skin and WOMERSLEY (quoted by PESCOTT 1942) has suggested that the dense macrosetae, which cover the animals and are easily detached, could be the cause of this irritation, but tests failed to demonstrate any effect (P. GREENSLADE unpublished data). All household records have been made in summer (Fig. 4) although the species is present outside throughout the year. The animals seem to invade drains, in the first instance possibly being attracted by the moist conditions and presence of food in the form of fungi. For instance, shower curtains have been described as "black" with these animals (ARNAUD, DAVIES 1980). CHRISTIANSEN (pers. comm.) noted swarming (migratory) behaviour after harvesting a cotton field, animals covering the road were so dense that they were "greying the ground" and causing vehicles to slip. It is suggested that here lower moisture levels, caused by exposure of the ground surface in the cotton fields after cropping, had caused individuals to seek more humid conditions elsewhere. This seems likely also to be the reason for summer invasion of damp areas in Australian houses as conditions outside become excessively hot and dry."

Linnaniemi, W. (1907) cited from van den Bruel, W.E. (1945:38) Finland:
"D'après LINNANIEMI, la plupart des espèces rencontrées dans les habitations y vivent dans la terre des pots de fleurs, d'où ils se dispersent en partie lorsqu'ils trouvent extérieurement au pot de fleurs une humidité suffisante."

Lubbock, J. (1873:72) Great-Brittain:
"Lepidocyrtus curvicollis is found in cellars."

Mallis, A. (1954) cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Tomocerus spp., by Mallis 1954
Pseudosinella spp., by Mallis 1954
Heteromurus spp., by Mallis 1954"

Marlatt (1896) cited from Theobald, F.V. (1911:16) United States:
"MARLATT (2) records a Lepidocyrtus infesting houses in the United States."
"(2) Canad. Entomol., XXVIII, 1896."

Maynard, E.A. (1951:14,73) Nearctic:
p.14: "It is only rarely that Collembola are reported as household pests, and then usually the damage is in the aesthetic sense. Unfortunately, in the mind of the average layman, any small crawling animal is a "bug," and in his mind one's house should never harbor a bug of any kind. How unfortunate it is that if insects of whatever kind (including springtails) are to make their presence known in one's residence it is usually when visitors are present! As pointed out by Curran (1947) the presence of springtails in a house at a nuisance level is an indication that some portion of the building is abnormally damp and that steps should be taken to find the source of the excess moisture (oftentimes a slowly leaking pipe). In such an environment, where algae and fungi grow and serve as food, Collembola increase in numbers, and their presence then becomes noticeable. The soil of potted house plants may become teeming with some of the soil species, the result of rapid reproduction under ideal conditions of moisture and warm temperatures."
p.73: "Onychiurus fimetarius ... is found ... in flower boxes in houses ..."

Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430):
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Onychiurus armatus (Tullberg, 1869), by Maynard 1951 *
Onychiurus fimetarius (Linnaeus, 1767), by Maynard 1951
Folsomia quadrioculata (Tullberg, 1871), by Maynard 1951 *"

* Note: these records cannot be confirmed as Maynard only specifies 'flower pots' without mentioning 'in house'.

Nicolet, H. (1842:76) Swiss:
"Degeeria domestica. ... Cette éspèce se trouve dans les maisons, ou elle vit solitaire; rare."

Patton & Evans (1931) cited from Bryk, F. (1955:1826) ?:
"Important: Springtails may become a nuisance in damp cellars in houses where they may get into the ground floors, around sinks, and into the conservatories. Should they prove a nuisance, a mixture of slaked lime and sulphur is recommended by Herrick. It should be spread over the floor, shelves and the walls; a dry atmosphere is inimical to these insects. "

Scott, D.B. (1953) cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Hypogastrura armata (Nicolet, 1841) by Scott 1953
Entomobrya nivalis (Linnaeus, 1758) by Scott 1953"

Scott, H.G. (1958) cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Proisotoma frisoni Folsom, 1937, by Scott 1958"

Scott, H.G. (1960) cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Entomobrya atrocincta Schott, 1896, by Scott 1960"

Scott, H.G. (1961:263) USA:
"Isotomodes tenuis Folsom, 1937. This is the only Isotomodes record from North America.
NEW MEXICO RECORD. From flower pot, apartment, 5,100 ft, Albuquerque, Bernalillo Co., 25-iii-1955.
DISTRIBUTION. Iowa, Mass., N. M. "

Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Isotomodes tenuis Folsom, 1937, by Scott 1961"

Scott, H.G. (1963) cited from Ebeling, W. (1975) ?:
"Another cosmopolitan species, Entomobrya atrocinta Schött (figures 336 and 337), is a pest of dried milk powder."

Scott, H.G. (1966:20,21) USA:
"p.20: Building-Infesting Springtails: Onychiurus armatus, Isotomodes tenuis, Folsomia sp., Proisotoma sp., Hypogastrura armata, Lepidocyrtus sp.
p.21: Pests in general: Entomobrya atrocincta, a pest of dried milk, Orchesella sp., a man-infesting variety, Seira platani, a pest of stored food, Podura aquatica, common on water surfaces. "

Snider, R. in Christiansen, K. (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Michigan:
"[Lepidocyrtus] is common here in Michigan. I've had many questions about those little critters under my bed by the thousands. Here we have Lepidocyrtus paradoxus as the common culprit. I remember a case in Flint, MI. where the folks were ready to bail out. Another case in Monroe, MI. and another in Charlotte, MI. All were slab based houses with tile floors. In the summer the moisture builds up under furnature (especially if it is at hot, humid summer) and the little [critters] reproduce like crazy. I just tell the folks to vacuum under the bed and maybe put a fan to use until the situation drys out."

Soto, F.N. in Christiansen (1999 in 2001:in litt.) Indiana:
"... about the invading Lepidocyrtus. I have seen L. nigrosetosus in houses (well, my parents house in the country) but always as single individuals, so it does not count as 'infesting'. Anyway, I presume that the case in California involved L. fimicolus and the one in Indiana L. floridensis. I observed L. fimicolus in the field feeding exclusively on fungal hyphae growing on wet grass clipings, they ate the fungus like spaghetti. Maybe the house in California had fungus growing in some places."

Yue, Q. in Christiansen, K (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Shanghai, China:
"I once collected Willowsia nigromaculata and Entomobrya sp. in my laboratory, they appeared together and in a large number. I also discovered them in my kitchen, I think they mainly feed on crumbs of food. They mainly appeared during the night nearby the washing tank. But I never saw Lepidocyrtus sp in the house."

Waltz, B. in Christiansen, K. (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Indiana:
" Typically we [in Indiana] get Willowsia in homes. In the late 1980's I worked with a hospital which was having collembola show up in its surgical rooms. It turns out the Collembola (mostly Entomobrya and some Lepidocyrtus) were being sucked into the air ventilation systems from tall grasses near the intakes. The hospital corrected the problem by placing finer filters on the air system and pouring a concrete buffer area around the intakes."

Scott, H.G. (1966:20) :
"Entomobrya atrocincta (world-wide) is a pest of dried milk powder. At least 19 species of United States springtails have been reported intimately associated with man."

More unpublished data on recent domestic infestations in the U.S.A. since 2003.05.12 can be found at " What's That Bug? Springtails! <>".

Incidental human infestations

Casterline, D.G (1954 in press) cited from Hurd, P.D. (1954:814) Alaska:
" ... and about 50 springtails (Collembola, Isotoma olivacea Tullberg. The medical aspects, as well as the specific identification of the insects involved, are to be reported by Donald G. Casterline, M.D. (Calif. Mo. Medicine, in press)."
Cited from Altschuler, D.Z. & Casterline, D.G. (1997 in 1999:in litt.) Alaska:
"While obtaining all of these papers I had the pleasure of speaking directly with the reporting physician Casterline -- who while retired remembered the event quite well. There was little beyond his excellent idea to x-ray the area of the sinuses where the discomfort was apparent and where on x-ray there was distinct shading. He then aspirated the area and left Hurd to do his own thing in the lab where he identified what you read in the report. No discussion to my knowledge or reported by Casterline of questions about immunity."

Hurd, P.D. (1954:814) Alaska:
"During the past two summers I have served as research entomologist at the Arctic Research Laboratory, Point Barrow, Alaska."
"Apparently because of the use of the aspirator, a most unique case of "myiasis" (or infestation) occured."
"Approximately 2 mo. after the completion of the past summer's work at Point Barrow I became ill. During the week following the onset of illness four major groups of insects (Coleoptera, Collembola, Diptera, Hymenoptera) were passed alive from the left antrum of the sinus. These insects included ... and about 50 springtails (Collembola, Isotoma olivacea Tullberg. The medical aspects, as well as the specific identification of the insects involved, are to be reported by Donald G. Casterline, M.D. (Calif. Mo. Medicine, in press)."
"It is believed that these protracted periods of dailly aspiration during the summer contributed to a case of "myiasis" that is without parallel in its origin and nature. Insofar as I have been able to ascertain none of the insects reported herein have been previously shown to cause "myiasis" in man."
"Apparently the insects gained access to the sinus as eggs which passed trough the fine mesh brass screen. Admittedly, it is almost unbelievable that the insects should have undergone several stages in their metamorphosis within the sinuses, but since the screen was so fine as to preclude the possibility of the aspiration of adult insects, it must be concluded that such was the case."

Cited from Hopkin, S.P. (1997:3):
"Hurd (1954) accidently infected his nasal sinuses with eggs of a species of Isotoma during fieldwork and passed about 50 live springtails from his nose some two months later. Pooters beware!"

Greenberg, Z. (1985) cited from Hopkin, S.P. (1997:3) ?:
"There is one case in the literature of a patient who was diagnosed as harbouring an ectoparasitic population of Collembola in her hair after complaining of an itchy scalp for over a year (Greenberg 1985). However, the source of the 'infection' was discovered to be a plant pot at the head of the patient's bed which supported a healthy colony of an unidentified entomobryid springtail. The patient was 'cured' by spraying the pots with insecticide."

Snider, R. in Christiansen, K. (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Michigan:
"We have Lepidocyrtus paradoxus from the butt of a woman who probably had an old fashioned picnic. Her doctor sent the specimens in. You can't be too careful when you tumble in the grass!"

Note: Possibly some infestations that do not cause dermatitis are just incidental, like the Greenberg and Hurd (1954) cases. In those cases, the Collembola are just annoying 'guests', a nuisance, rather than pests causing a disease. It is clear that not the patient should receive treatment then, but the real source of the infestation.

Human infestations not associated with dermatitis

Coutelen, F. (1928:854) France, Beaune-la-Rolande:
"Il s'agit d'une femme de 60 ans, habitant la campagne, qui, chaque été, depuis deus ans, a le cuir chevelu infesté de Collemboles; les autres parties du corps sont indemnes. La présence de ces insectes sur le cuir chevelu provoque chez la malade de vives démangeaisons sans altération pathologique autre que des lésions de grattage secondaires; les parasiticides couramment employés sont restés sans effet. Ici comme dans le cas précédent [Frèche & Beille, 1896], aucune personne de l'entourage de la malade n'héberge de Collemboles. Ces Collemboles, recueillis par brossage du cuir chevelu au-dessus d'une cuvette pleine d'eau, avaient été rapportés par nous au genre Lepidocyrtus, Bourlet; M. DENIS, que nous tenons à remercier ici, a bien voulu compléter cette diagnose: il s'agit d'une espèce très banale, le Lepidocyrtus curvicollis Bourlet."
Cited from van den Bruel, W.E. in Collart, A. (1944:210):
"1928, COUTELEN : une femme de soixante ans dont la chevelure est envahie depuis deux ans par Lepidocyrtus curvicollis BOURLET"
Cited from van den Bruel, W.E. (1945:35):
"Enfin COUTELEN a rapporté en 1928 un troisième cas de découverte de Collembole sur l'homme. Il s'agit d'une femme de soixante ans, habitant la campagne dans le Loiret et qui, chaque été, depuis deux ans, avait le cuir chevelu infesté de Lepidocyrtinus curvicollis BOURLET; aucune personne de l'entourage de la malade n'était contaminée."

Cretschmar, M. in Bryk, F. (1955:1825) Germany:
"I had received a sample of the collembolan Orchesella cincta, several specimens of which were found on a child, which were provided on the assumption that they were ectoparasites."

Frêche, X. & Beille, L. (1896:70-71) France:
"M. X, agé de 70 ans, habite dans la Charente-Infériere une maison comfortable et isolée en rase campagne; il est très soigneux de sa personne. En août 1891 il fit un voyage aux Sables-d'Olonne, à la Rochelle et à l'île d'Oloron et ne remarqua rien d'anormal. Mais quinze jours après son retour il sentit de vives démangeaisons dans le cuir chevelu et y trouva de nombreux parasites qu'il prit pour des poux. Un traitement mercuriel parut efficace. A l'entree de l'hiver les parasites disparurent et M. X., n'en trouvant plus, se crut définitivement débarrassé. Mais au printemps de 1892 de nouveaux parasites reparurent et persisterent jusqu'en novembre. En 1893 nouvelle éclosion au printemps et disparition à l'entrée de l'hiver. Les mêmes faits se sont renouvelés en 1894, 1895, 1896, et cela malgré tous les soins de propreté et la désinfection de tous les objets mobiliers. Les parasites semblent même devenir de plus en plus abondants; à l'origine M. X. n'en trouvait que dans ses cheveux qu'il porte habituellement fort longs, mais depuis 1894 ils circulent sur le cou, le tronc et les membres qui sont absolument glabres.
Ce parasite ne détermine aucune lésion de la peau; le cuir chevelu, sur lequel il est si abondant, n'offre aucune altération pathologique; il est simplement génant et désagréable par ses mouvements. Il paraît appartenir au genre Seira et avoisine la Seira domestica, mais sans lui être identique; on ne peut le rapporter à aucune des espèces décrites par Lubbock dans sa monographie classique.
Particularité curieuse: seul dans son entourage M. X. est atteint; ses domestiques sont à peu près complètement épargnés."

Cited from Handschin, E. in Schulze, P. (1926:45):
"... und dann um eine nicht näher beschriebene Form, wahrscheinlich eine Lepidocyrtinus, die Frèche und Breille[sic] (47) mehr als lästigen und unangenehmen als gefährlichen Ectoparasiten bei einem ihrer Patienten während Jahren beobachteten. Dabei soll die Form regelmäBig trotz Desinfektionen der Wohnung immer wieder erschienen sein und sich stets an den einen Hausbewohner gehalten haben."
Cited from Coutelen, F. (1928:853-854):
"En 1896, dans une note présentée à l'Académie des Sciences FRÈCHE et BEILLE (3) signalaient à leur tour un cas de 'parasitisme accidentel' par des Thysanoures, mais, cette fois, chez l'homme. Il s'agissait d'un vieillard de 70 ans 'très soigneux de sa personne, vivant dans une maison confortable, isolée et située en rase campagne' dans la Charente-Inférieure. Durant six ans, de 1891 à 1896, cet homme avait présenté de vives démangeaisons au niveau du cuir chevelu où, d'autre part, il avait constaté la présence de nombreux parasites'. Les auteurs précités avaient reconnu dans ces insectes des Thysanoures du genre Seira. D'abord cantonnés dans la chevelure du malade, ces Thysanoures avaient fini par pulluler à tel point qu'ils circulaient sur le cou, le tronc et les membres de cet homme; d'autre part, on n'avait relevé sur son cuir chevelu aucune altération pathologique appréciable et un traitement mercuriel avait été efficace. FRÈCHE et BEILLE faisaient aussi remarquer, dans leur note, qu'aucune autre personne de l'entourage du malade n'était porteur de Seira."
Cited from van den Bruel, W.E. in Collart, A. (1944:210):
"1896, FRECHE et BEILLE : un vieillard infesté pendant plusieurs années consécutives par un Sira sp., ou, plus probablement, de l'avis de HANDSCHIN, par un Lepidocyrtinus;"
Cited from van den Bruel, W.E. (1945:35):
"FRECHE et BEILLE ont signalé en 1896 le cas d'un vieillard de 70 ans, trés propre, portant des cheveux longs et qui vivait dans une maison confortable et isolé à la campagne, en Charente-Inférieure. Il souffrait depuis six ans de démangeaisons à hauteur du cuir chevelu, résultant de la présence de nombreux parasites. Il s'agissait, d'après les auteurs, d'un Collembole paraissant appartenir au genre Sira; HANDSCHIN, se basant sur le texte de cette communication, est d'avis que l'insecte était plutot un Lepidocyrtinus. L'insecte disparaissait à l'entrée de l'hiver, mais l'infection recommençait chaque printemps jusqu'en novembre. Les Collemboles finirent par pulluler en dépit de traitements mercuriels, des soins de propreté et de la désinfection des objets mobiliers, au point de circuler sur tout le corps du malade; il est remarquable cependant que les personnes de l'entourage du vieillard n'étaient pas contaminées."
Cited from Bryk, F. (1955:1824-1825) :
"Freche and Beille in the minutes of a meeting of the Academy of Sciences in Paris (1896, page 70). A well-groomed man in his seventies returning in August of 1891 from a journey to the island of d'Oloron sensed numerous parasites in his hair, after two weeks or so, which he assumed to be fleas. Treatment with a mercurial preparation proved to be beneficial. As winter came around, he had gotten rid of the parasites and believed this to be the end of it, but in the spring of 1892, they re-emerged and remained until November. The situation repeated itself in 1893, followed by another disappearance in the winter. This continued for several years, i.e., 1894, 1895 and 1896, regardless of the disinfection of the patient's body and all of his household goods. 'The parasites seem to become increasingly abundant.' At first, the animals appeared only in the hair, which he carries very long, but since 1894, they were crawling on his neck, torso and 'absolutely smooth and hairless limbs,' i.e., on his entirely hairless extremities. These parasites leave no injuries of the skin, which exhibits no 'pathological change.' The animal is only vexing and unpleasant due to its movements. The authors assume that the insect is a new species of the Sira[sic] genus. Martini later determined it as Lepidocyrtus curvicollis. "
Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430):
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Sira buski (Lubbock, 1870), by Freche and Beille 1896"

Handschin, E. in Schulze, P. (1926:45) Germany:
"Mir selbst wurde 1925 eine Probe von Orchesella cincta übergeben, die in mehreren Exemplaren auf einem Kinde gefunden und als vermeintliche Ectoparasiten eingeliefert wurden."

Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Texas:
"Springtail insects (Orchesella albosa Guthrie, 1903, forma ainslieri Folsom, 1924) were found infesting the heads and pubic areas of a family in Buffalo, Leon County, Texas, in June 1961. No dermatitis was reported due to this infestation, and the source of the insects was not determined. Based upon known habits of this species, some moldy household item (perhaps bedding) was probably involved. Orchesella albosa has never before been reported infesting man or houses. Its chewing mouthparts are probably not capable of biting man."
The ecology of Orchesella albosa is discussed, domestic springtail control is described, and a pictorial key to domestic Collembola is presented.
Cited from Dasgupta, R. & Dasgupta, B. (1990:438):
"... a case of infestation by Collembola of the head and pubic region of members of a family in Buffalo, Texas, U.S.A. However, the gut contents of these insects were not examined."

Scott, H.G. (1966:19-20) :
"Orchesella albosa (North American and European) has been recorded as infesting, without dermatitis, the head and pubic areas of man."

van den Bruel, W.E. in Collart, A. (1944:210) Belgium:
"  - M. W. E. VAN DEN BRUEL montre des spécimens de Lepidocyrtinus domesticus (NIC.) BÖRNER capturés sur la tete d'un enfant. C'est le troisième[sic] cas de Collemboles vivant sur l'Homme connu jusqu'ici (1896, FRECHE et BEILLE : un vieillard infesté pendant plusieurs années consécutives par un Sira sp., ou, plus probablement, de l'avis de HANDSCHIN, par un Lepidocyrtinus; 1926, HANDSCHIN : un enfant porteur de Orchesella cincta LINN. ; 1928, COUTELEN : une femme de soixante ans dont la chevelure est envahie depuis deux ans par Lepidocyrtus curvicollis BOURLET).
  Le cas observé à Bruxelles diffère des précédents par les points suivants: 1. les sujets sont citadins et non plus campagnards ; 2. ils vivent en appartement dans un immeuble neuf offrant de larges fenetres, garni d'un mobilier moderne et dépourvu de plantes ; 3. il y a eu contamination : plusieurs membres de la famille (père, mère, un enfant) ont hébergé le Collembole, deux enfants en ont été exempts ; 4. les parents sont jeunes, très propres, les enfants sont bien soignés, la maison est fort bien tenue."

van den Bruel, W.E. (1945:34-41) (Communication présentée le 26 juin 1943) Belgium:
p.35-36: "Le nouveau cas de Collembole vivant sur l'homme venu à notre connaissance diffère quelque peu des précédents. Il s'agit d'un garçonnet de neuf ans vivant en pleine ville, à Bruxelles, avec ses parents, dans une maison neuve et en excellent état d'entretien. Les restrictions dues à la guerre ont engendré une augmentation anormale des cas d'infection par les poux chez les enfants. Le garçonnet en question a été contaminé par ces parasites à l'école, deux mois avant les observations; il a transmis l'infection à sa jeune maman. Un traitement approprié a mis fin à cet accident. Cependant l'enfant observe ensuite à l'école, par deux fois, un insecte sautant de sa tete sur le pupitre. Ses parents ne pretent aucune attention au récit de l'incident jusqu'au jour où le père remarque un Collembole qui bondit sur sa table de travail, dans son propre appartement. Ensuite la maman constate par deux fois la chute d'un Collembole dans le lavabo alors qu'elle se coiffe, et elle retrouve deux autres insectes en peignant le garçonnet. Les frères et soeurs de l'enfant, plus jeunes, ne sont pas contaminés, mais quinze jours plus tard, une belle-soeur, qui recoit fréquemment la visite de la famille et qui appréhendait la contagion, surprend chez elle aussi un Collembole lui sautant de la tete sur la table. Depuis, il n'y a plus eu, semble-t-il, de nouvelle contamination. Les personnes atteintes sont très propres; elles n'ont jamais ressenti un prurit quelconque. L'appatement est fort bien tenu et en excellent état, éclairé par de grandes fenetres, extremement sec et garni d'un mobilier neuf; il ne renferme pas de plantes cultivées en pots. M. MARLIER, que nous remercions ici, a bien voulu déterminer les exemplaires du Collembole que nous possédions; il s'agit de Lepidocyrtinus domesticus (NIC) BÖRNER. Il a lui-meme capturé à plusieurs reprises des individus de cette espèce dans des maisons de l'agglomération bruxelloise."
p.39: "Pour le cas qui nous a occupé, il est vraisemblable que le lieu d'infection est le domicile des patients et non pas, comme ceux-ci le croyaient, la plaine de sable où jouaient les enfants."
p.40 (conclusion): "Les Collemboles peuvent etre considerées jusqu'à un certain point comme ectoparasites pour les personnes susceptibles d'etre infestées, car: 1. l'infection est durable; 2. les insectes reviennent avec obstination sur ces sujets; 3. ils se nourrissent peutetre des sécrétions du cuir chevelu ou meme des débris pelliculaire; 4. ils sont susceptibles parfois de contaminer un nouvel individu. Leur présence ne peut donc etre considerée comme purement accidentelle. Ils sont cependant des hotes absolument anodins, incapables d'occasionner la moindre lésion du cuir chevelu."

Vysotskaya, S.O. (1958) cited from Dasgupta, R. & Dasgupta, B. (1990:438) Russia:
"... in certain Collembola infesting rodents near Leningrad, she could find signs of transition to ectoparasitism from a free-living habit."

Human infestations associated with dermatitis

Note: Because they are so common in buildings, springtails are regularly collected during epidemic investigations of human dermatitis outbreaks. Since they are little known, they are often mistakenly blamed for the outbreak. Actually, it is doubtful if any springtails can bite man, and further investigation almost invariably reveals some other cause for the dermatitis. Inexperienced investigators terminate their search upon finding the springtails, and never notice the much smaller dermatitis producing straw itch mites (Pyemotes ventricosus).
It is important to note, however, that springtails walking and hopping on the skin may cause 'itching', and that springtails crushed on the skin may cause mild localised allergic response. (Scott, 1966:20).
However, in a recent study, IgE antibodies to Collembola proteins were not detected in sera from sufferers and skin tests with the Collembola extract and crushed whole Collembola were negative in both sufferers and volunteers; this suggests that Collembola may not cause human dermatitis and that other organisms and organic matter that are also found in the moist environment inhabited by Collembola might instead be responsible (Lim et al., 2009).

Amin, O.M. (1996:64) ?:
"The closest published references to the presented case1, 2 reported springtails (Insecta: Collembola) causing pruritic dermatitis in humans; collembolans are generally regarded as saprophagous and phytophagous insects.
1. Hunter GW, Frye WW, Schwartzwelder JC, 1960. A Manual of Tropical Medicine. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.
2. Scott HG, Wiseman JS, Stojanovich CJ. 1962. Collembola infesting man. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am: 528-530."

Amin, O.M. (2001) Arizona:
Fig.2. One of many springtails collected from scalp lesions of JH. The furca of this specimen was broken off; magnification 100x.
Amin, O.M. 2001

"Scalp lesions also occur in patients with neurological symptoms and are usually associated with arthropod infestation. JH (a tall, healthy, well-nourished, middle aged white American female from Arizona) had a number of such lesions [(Fig. 4)] from which springtails (Collembola: Insecta: Arthropoda) [(Fig. 5)] were collected by myself in December, 1995. There is only two other published reports of springtails from humans (Hunter et al., 1960; Scott et al., 1962)."
Note: Dr Kenneth Christiansen identified the specimen as Entomobrya albocincta:
Christiansen, K. (2001.09.27:in litt., 2009.02.11:in litt.) U.S.A.:
"I have been sent one of the hair infesting specimens from KH and it turns out to be Entomobrya albocincta. This is the first valid record from the Americas."

Amin, O.M. (2003:21,24) U.S.A.:
Amin, O.M. (2004:2,7) U.S.A.:
p.21(2003),2(2004): "The cutaneous aspects [of the Neurocutaneous Syndrome (NCS)] include ... lesions [that] may also be on the scalp where they may be associated with infestations of springtails (Collembola).1 "
"While NCS itself is not a contagious condition, superimposed opportunistic infections on open sores may be. Initial infection with fungus or bacteria appear to attract subsequent infestations with many arthropod species, especially springtails (Collembola: Insecta). 1, 5, 6, 7 "
"Black specks associated with such infections appear to be metabolic waste (fecal elements) of these organisms or mycelial masses of certain fungal species."
"Arthropods identified from sores include fleas (Siphonaptera), caterpillars (Lepidoptera), wasps and ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), winged flies and midges (Diptera), thrips (Thysanoptera), ticks, mites and spiders (Arachnida) and springtails (Collembola). 1,4 While springtails have close association with sores in many NCS patients, it should be emphasized that they, and other opportunistic infections represent aggravating but not causal factors of NCS sores. "
p.24(2003),7(2004): "In April, 2001, LG moved to an apartment which was heavily infested with mold and mites. Lesions started appearing on LG's face which quickly became red hot as if on fire. Her legs became swollen and painfully burning. By May, 2001, LG had several open lesions (6 mm to 2 cm in diameter) accompanied by erythema, on her face and scalp. Her cheek pulsated as the facial lesions seemed to track to the chin where the most fulminating lesion was; nearest to her teeth. Springtails (Collembola) and fibers were recovered from these sites. "

Amin, O.M. (2012:14) U.S.A.:
"Our early reports on this syndrome [NCS] included the description of a case with many facial opportunistic infections from Oklahoma (Amin, 1996) and the first naming and diagnosis of NCS from 3 more cases, with a special reference to fibers and springtails (Collembola) (Amin, 2001). By 2003, we were able to provide a comprehensive diagnosis of NCS and establish the link to dental toxins as the causative agents. "

Beccati, M., Gallo, M.G., Chiavassa, E. & Peano, A. (2011:1-4) Italy:
p.1: "The organisms, found by skin scrapings, were identified as Proisotoma spp. (Collembola: Isotomidae). The cat presented with dermatological lesions (itchy, furfuraceous dermatitis), and we speculate that they were due to this infestation. The pathogenic role of the Collembola was hypothesized because of the large number of organisms, the presence of eggs indicating an active reproduction cycle, the lack of other pathogens (fleas, mites or lice) and the clinical recovery accompanied by the disappearance of Collembola following treatment. The owner seemed to be affected by the infestation, because a few days after having purchased the cat, she developed a pruriginous papular dermatitis on the neck and the arms, which disappeared shortly after treatment of the kitten and a careful washing of all of its toys and other accoutrements."
p.2: "The organisms were later identified at the Department of Evolutionary Biology of the University of Siena (Italy) [by Romano Dallai] as Proisotoma spp. (probably Proisotoma minuta; Collembola: Isotomidae). The uncertainty in the specific identification was due to the presence in the sample of immature organisms that were difficult to identify."
... it is reasonable to assume that the infestation derived from the place of purchase. It is impossible to establish whether the infestation of the owner was transmitted through contact with the cat, its gadgets or the plants bought in the same shop. In any case, the human clinical signs are not attributable to a zoonotic disease, because the pet was at most a passive carrier of an organism harboured from the environment."
p.4: "... this kind of infestation may be called at most a `pseudozoonosis'. As noted above, the owner seemed to suffer a mild, transient infestation, and all symptoms disappeared without the need for therapy, after treatment of the kitten and careful washing of all of its toys and accoutrements. In conclusion, this is the first case of an apparent infestation by springtails in a cat. There is a strong suspicion that these organisms were responsible for the clinical signs observed in the cat and its owner, although other parasitic causes, ... , cannot be ruled out definitively. "

Bryk, F. (1955:1822-1826) Sweden:
p.1823: "The female patient, a 60-year-old married housewife had been suffering for two years from a 'nervous disorder.' She had consulted various physicians, including dermatologists. However, none were able to determine the cause of the medical problem, which manifested itself as a weak, although, annoying itching, and considered being of a nervous type. In the end, the patient herself managed to detect the culprit, which resided in the genitals and anus, organs that are difficult to access.
... Initially, the patient believed that the creatures causing her discomfort were lice. They caused irritation, especially at night. They crawled out of their hiding-places. She vaguely felt how she was being 'stung' by these creatures, leaving small red pricks on the skin of her torso all the way up to the arms.
... the springtails were present in the bathroom, crawling on the walls, on the damp floor, in the drain, and the toilet. 'Especially, the toilet brush was teeming with these parasites.'
... Associate professor Karl-Herman Forsslund determined the animals as Sira[sic] plantani[sic] Nic. Furthermore, he had the animals examined by a specialist in Copenhagen, Dr. S. L. Tuxen, who confirmed Dr. Forsslund's diagnosis, and also discovered a single specimen of a closely-related Sira[sic] buski Lubbock among the examined animals.
p.1824: "... The statements by Martini (1952), page 120 and 354 about collembolans are immaterial or plainly misleading. I already pointed out that collembolans do not have this ability to bite. Furthermore, Martini mentions Lepidocyrtus curvicollis as an occasional parasite sometimes assumed to nestle in human hairs. Martini's statement about the occurrence of springtails in human hair likely refers to the unusual case reported by Freche and Beille in the minutes of a meeting of the Academy of Sciences in Paris (1896, page 70)."
p.1826: "... In analogy with the scientific names of diseases caused by insects such as Myiasis or Phthiriasis, I suggest the name Siracis for the illness caused by Sira[sic], as discussed in detail above. "

Christiansen, K. (1999:in litt.) ?:
"There does seem to be a reasonable record of an allergic reaction to scales of Seira domestica..."

Dasgupta, R. & Dasgupta, B. (1990:438) India:
"We report that certain collembolan insects in our laboratory (Hypogastrura sp.) have exhibited a parasitic propensity, attacking newts (Tylototriton verucosus) and toads (Bufo himalayanus), causing running sores in the skin of these animals. Other Collembola (Seira indica), whose gut contents were examined, were engorged with blood from the newt. We believe that this is the first record of these insects feeding on blood."

Frye, F.L. (1996:2-7) Iowa:
" ... Recently, I was contacted by an official of the National Pediculosis Society who was investigating the possibility that all members of a family that was living in Iowa and suffering from very sever and intensely pruritic mutifocal head, trunk, and pubic dermatitis were infested with parasitic collembolan (springtail) insects. "
"... Routine tests and biopsies were negative for the presence of Herpesviral dermatitis, mite infestation (scabies), and head- and bodylouse infestation (pediculosis). However, the white nit-like objects that adhered to individual head hairs probably were the eggs of headlice. Some skin biopsies revealed the presence of arthropod insects that were characterized as collembolas. Because of their similar small size, it is unlikely that the springtails used the headlice as phoretic transport vehicles to move between hosts. Therefore, it appears that some patients were simultaneously infested with both springtails and headlice.
A literature search revealed an expanding source of information that documents that springtails have become true parasites of a variety of animal hosts even though they lack specialized feeding structures. Once the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia began to investigate pruritic dermatitis of unknown pathogenicity, they found 123 cases. "
"... Whether the immune status of the affected individuals played a major role in promoting springtail parasitism or whether insecticide resistance was a component in these cases is entirely conjectural; however, both factors have been suggested as possibilities. "
"... To the date of this writing, the taxa that have been reported to induce intense pruritic dermatitis in man are: Entomobryo nivalis and E. tenuicauda (Hunter, et al, 1960; Scott, et al, 1962); Hypogastrura manubrialis and Sira buski (Megnin, 1839[sic]; Freche and Beille, 1896). In addition, Orchesella albosa var. ainslieri was recorded infesting humans without causing pruritis (Scott, et al, 1962).
In summary, these cases of collemboliasis may be only medical curiousities, or they may be the first 'sentinel' instances of a significant emerging parasitism."

Hunter, G.W., Frye, W.W. & Schwartzwelder, J.C. (1960) cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430) Nearctic:
"Entomobrya nivalis (cosmopolitan) and Entomobrya tenuicauda (Australasian) have been reported as causing a pruritic dermatitis in man."
Cited from Dasgupta, R. & Dasgupta, B. (1990:438):
"...some of these insects may be parasitic, causing pruritic dermatitis in man."

Lim, C.S.H, Lim, S.L., Chew, F.T., Ong, T.C. & Deharveng, L. (2009:1-5) Singapore:
"Based on our findings, it is unlikely that dermatitis, either through an allergic or direct histaminic action, was caused in the nurses and healthy volunteers by this undescribed Drepanura species. "

Mackie, T.T., Hunter, G.W. & Brooke Worth, C. (1945:541-542) Australia:
"The Collembola are primarily phytophagous and are not usually thought of as medically important insects. Two Australian species, however, Entomobrya multifasciata Tullb. and E. tenuicauda Schött have recently been recorded as attacking man, the patients complaining of a sharp, biting sensation followed by irritation and papules similar to mosquito bites, with pruritus."
Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430):
"Entomobrya nivalis (cosmopolitan) and Entomobrya tenuicauda (Australasian) have been reported as causing a pruritic dermatitis in man."
Cited from Ebeling, W. (1975):
"They [Collembola] have never been incriminated in the transmission of any human disease, but Entomobrya nivalis L., a cosmopolitan species, has been reported to cause an itching type of dermatitis in man, ..."
See also the original publication of Pescott (1942).
See also the revision of Pescott's specimens of E. tenuicauda by Greenslade (1995).
Cited from Dasgupta, R. & Dasgupta, B. (1990:438):
"...some of these insects may be parasitic, causing pruritic dermatitis in man."

Martini, M. (1952:354) cited from Bryk, F. (1955:1824) ?:
"Very discomforting mosquito-like skin irritations attributable to collembolans of the genus Entomobrya attempting to bite. "

Mégnin, J.P. (1878) cited from Handschin, E. in Schulze, P. (1926:45) Nearctic:
"Es handelt sich um den Megninschen Podurhippus pityriasicus (= Hypogastrura manubrialis Tullb.), der auf den Wunden eines schlecht gehaltenen Gaules in Menge angetroffen wurde"
Cited from van den Bruel, W.E. (1945:34-35) :
"MEGNIN a observé en 1878 des quantités innombrables de Collemboles vivant dans les produits de sécrétion épidermique de plusieurs chevaux d'une meme écurie affectés d'un pityriasis général et chronique. L'espèce en question, décrite comme nouvelle sous le nom de Podurhippus pityriasicus, a été ramenée en synonymie avec Hypogastrura manubrialis TULLB."
Cited from Bryk, F. (1955:1825):
"It would be of interest to veterinarians that according to M. Megnin another collembolan, Podurhippus pytyriasicus[sic], was found in vast numbers in the wounds of a poorly-kept jaded horse."
Cited from Scott, H.G., Wiseman, J.S. & Stojanovich, C.J. (1962:430):
"... species of Nearctic Collembola ... reported intimiately associated with man (only earliest reference given):
Hypogastrura manubrialis (Tullberg, 1869) by Mégnin 1839[sic] 1
1 Under another name."

Cited from Bellinger (1999:in litt.):
"Mégnin (1878) proposes Podurhippus pityriasicus for a springtail found in sores on skin of horses. The species is certainly a Hypogastrura."
Note: It is possible that people that work with horses are troubled by Collembola that live in the stables and feed on hyphen of fungi. Fungal infections of the horse's skin/hair could eventually also infect the skin/hair of the workers. Anyway, in this case, the springtail is actually 'parasiting' the fungus and not man.
Alternitavely, the Collembola were possibly atrackted to the fluids produced by the wound. Hypogastrura has sucking mouthparts.

Mertens, J. in Christiansen, K. (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Belgium:
" Several years ago our Faculty of Medicine once offered me 'strange small insects', which were considered as being responsible for causing allergic reactions on the skin of a woman. Those insects were Seira domestica. I could prove that the scales of Seira on the cushioned seats caused the allergy. As you know, Lepidocyrtus, has scales too. "
Mertens, J. (2004:in litt.) Belgium:
"In 1976 (or 1977), our Faculty of Medicine was puzzled by a rare case of skin allergy in a woman, living near Ghent. The allergy was caused by the scales of Seira domestica on a cushion of a rotan chair. Whenever the woman used the rotan chair, the allergic skin response occured (and only then). The chair was located in the veranda, which was quite moisty and where the temperature was enjoyable. It turned out that the hollow rotan branches of the chair hosted a population of Seira domestica. During the night, they left their hiding place and crawled all over the chair. The cushion collected many of the lost scales, causing as such the allergic reaction."

Nasca, M.R., Lacarrubba, F. & Micali G. (2015:S76-77) Italy:
Fig.2. Ex vivo high-magnification videodermoscopy (x100) showing well-developed antennae (arrows) and a long springlike furcula (arrowheads) typical of Collembola.
Nasca MR & al 2015

"A 65-year-old woman presented with a 4-month history of a recalcitrant pruritic scalp disorder unresponsive to repeated pediculicidal treatments. She exhibited self-collected specimens of presumed head lice entrapped in adhesive tape that she claimed to have recovered after combing her hair. At physical examination, several scratching marks were detectable on the scalp.
... high-magnification videodermoscopy (HMVD) (320-100), failed to detect on the scalp any ectoparasites or their products (nits, fecal waste). Ex vivo HMVD of the samples (Fig 2) unequivocally excluded Pediculus hominis capitis, and an entomologic consultation [by Prof Giovanni Pilato, Department of Animal Biology, University of Catania] identified the arthropods as Collembola. The patient was instructed to refrain from using unneeded and detrimental antiparasitic treatments, and to remove damp items and standing water in the household, with positive outcome."

Pescott, R.T.M. (1942:68-69) Australia:
"In 1939, specimens of springtails were received from a Melbourne specialist who stated that they were causing skin troubles on a female patient. The insect in question was the species Entomobrya multifasciata Tull., a European species originally described in 1871, but which is now cosmopolitan in its distribution. Womersley (3) records it as being common in cultivated areas in the Australian States. The symptoms of this case were as follows : the patient experienced a sharp biting sensation, followed by intolerable itching. There were few marks on the body with an occasional excoriated papule, while the irritation was distributed fairly generally over the trunk and limbs, but was most marked around the waist. Several specimens of the insect responsible for the condition were found on the patient's body. She received no active treatment, but her clothes and bedclothes were sterilised and this was sufficient to destroy the insect and thereby remove the irritation.
On considering the origin of this infection, it appeared that the patient had recently moved into a new house where the garden was in the process of being made. The insects had apparently migrated to the patient when the grass, weeds and soil outside were disturbed."
"In 1941, specimens of another springtail were received from a military hospital in Victoria, where skin irritations were occuring among the nursing staff. The species concerned was Entomobrya tenuicauda Schott., a native insect originally described in 1917 from Queensland, later recorded by Womersley (3) from Western Australia and Tasmania, and now from Victoria. In this instance, the presence of the insect produced on several nurses raised lumps very similar to mosquito bites, and which later were very irritable. In one instance there was also a good deal of reddening of the calf of the leg. These conditions lasted for somewhat less than twenty-four hours in each case, but reoccurred the next day, probably from more 'bites'.
On analysing this case, it appears certain that the insects were introduced into the hospital with flowers, and from there moved on the affected nurses during their normal routine duties."
"3. Womersley, H. : Primitive Insects of South Australia, Gov. Printer, Adelaide, 1939."

Womersley suggested that the easily detached, long ciliated hairs of Entomobrya species undoubtedly would cause skin irritations.
Pescott concludes that severe skin irritation can be caused by certain species of Collembola: "Typical symptoms are a biting sensation, followed by intense irritation and the production of small pimple-like bodies."
See also the revision of Pescott's specimens of E. tenuicauda by Greenslade (1995).

Scott, H.G. (1966:19) :
"Springtails have never been incriminated in the transmission of human disease. Entomobrya nivalis (world-wide) and Entomobrya tenuicauda (Australian) have been reported as causing an itching type of dermatitis in man."
Cited from Ebeling, W. (1975) :
"Springtails crawling or hopping on the skin may cause itching, and when crushed on the skin, they may cause a mild, localized, allergic response. (Scott et al., 1962; Scott, 1966c)."

Delusional human infestations

Altschuler, D.Z. et al. (2004:87-95) U.S.A.:
"Twenty individuals diagnosed with delusory parasitosis participated in a single site clinical study under the auspices of the National Pediculosis Association (NPA) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The objective of this study was to determine if there were any common factors in skin scrapings collected from this population. These individuals, whose symptoms were originally attributed to lice or scabies, were part of a larger group reporting symptoms of stinging/biting and/or crawling to the NPA. Multiple skin scrapings from each person were microscopically examined. Any and all fields of view that appeared incongruous to normal human skin were digitally photographed. When the photographic images were initially evaluated, no common factor was identified. However, more extensive scrutiny using imaging software revealed evidence of Collembola in 18 of the 20 participants."
"The images were reviewed by entomologists and the presence of Collembola verified and identified as representative of the families Isotomidae and Entomobryidae."
"It is possible Collembola found in lesions are opportunistic and that fungal infections or allergic reactions to pollen, fungi, spores or other organisms may contribute to or be responsible for the symptoms these individuals experience." "Collembola do not need to be human parasites in order to be present in the skin scrapings."

Note: The in the study participating entomologists have identified the Collembola based only on the digitally enhanced images of the skin scrapings; no specimens have been deposited in collection for further reference.
All the images presented in the paper, except the enhanced version of figure 2, do not appear to be from living or recently dead specimens or body parts broken off such but specimens in advanced states of decay. Comparing the images with Collembola from Canadian and Burmese Cretaceous amber where much decay had occurred in many specimens, as well as with thousands of pitfall trap specimens in various states of decay, it is obvious with some security that the specimens shown in the photographs, if they are Collembola, are badly decayed. Therefore, since the specimens were freshly taken from new scrapings, "The finding of images from 18 of the 20 symptomatic study participants supports their contention that they have something crawling on or under their skin." is not supported, unless the other pictures are far better. Under the assumption that the best pictures were chosen for the article, this seems highly unlikely. If Collembola were crawling then the specimens should be part of living specimens.
It may well be evidence that at past times Collembola were involved in a crawling sensation, such as caused by allergic reactions as described by Pescott (1942:68-69).
The authors should provide a skin sample including a collembolan specimen to prove their point. The case is considered unproven unless an animal is provided.
See also the discussion of the pareidolia phenomenon by Berenbaum (2005).

Barclay, L. (2004) U.S.A.
"In [the] single-site clinical study conducted by the NPA and the Oklahoma State Department of Health, multiple skin scrapings from each of 20 individuals diagnosed with delusory parasitosis were examined microscopically. The subjects were part of a larger group of more than 1,500 persons reporting symptoms of stinging, biting, and/or crawling to the NPA, and their symptoms were originally attributed to lice or scabies.
There were more than 300 anomalous findings in skin scrapings from the 20 subjects and none in the controls. These anomalies included pollen, spores, hyphae, mycelium, algae, and what appeared to be insect eggs, larvae, or embryos. Although digital photography of any and all fields of view that appeared incongruous to normal human skin initially revealed no common factor, more extensive examination using imaging software revealed evidence of Collembola in 18 of the 20 subjects."

Note: The case is considered unproven unless an animal is provided. See note on Altschuler et al., 2004.
See also the discussion of the pareidolia phenomenon by Berenbaum (2005).

Benecke, M (2004) Germany:
"Im vergangenen Jahr nun nahm der Fall des Randy Yaskal eine überraschende Wendung, als Hautschuppen von ihm und einigen seiner Leidensgenossen zum Staatlichen Gesundheitsamt in Oklahoma sowie zum Naturkundemuseum in New York gelangten. Dort entsannen sich die Medizinerin Deborah Altschuler und der Insektenkundler Louis Sorkin einiger Versuche des verstorbenen rumánischen Veterinár-Parasitologen Neculai Dulceanu. Der hatte schon mehrfach in der Haut vermeintlich psychisch Kranker winzige Insekten gefunden. So entdeckte man in der Haut einer 80-jáhrigen Frau alle Entwicklungsstadien (Eier, Puppen, erwachsene Tiere) von Collembolen (Springschwánzen). Die flügellosen Insekten haben es gern warm und feucht.
Die Wissenschaftler wollten es nun genauer wissen. Sie baten zwanzig Freiwillige, die als uneinsichtig-verbohrte Insektenwahn-Patienten galten, aber weder an Láusen noch an Krátze litten, zur Hautprobe. Und die Beobachtungen des Rumánen bestátigten sich: Bei 18 der 20 untersuchten Patienten lebten tatsáchlich Collembolen (wieder in allen Entwicklungsstadien) in und unter der Haut. Sind die Springschwánze Ursache des Juckens und Stechens? Hat der angebliche Wahn also eine reale Ursache?
Franz[sic] Jannssens[sic] von der Universitát Antwerpen hatte schon vor Jahren das Wissen über menschennah auftretende Springschwánze zusammengetragen und ermittelt, dass die Tierchen sehr háufig Gáste in menschlichen Behausungen sind. Auf manchen Duschvorhángen bilden sie einen echten Collembolen-Teppich; oder sie wandern zu Tausenden in Wohnungen ein, wenn es ihnen draußen zu ungemütlich wird. Dennoch krabbeln sie nicht jedem unter die Haut. Das US-Forscherteam vermutet, dass die Haut der Befallenen schon vorher durch Pilze, Sporen, Pollen oder andere Allergene angegriffen ist. Die Springschwánze nisten sich dann in bereits bestehende Wunden ein."

Note: The case described by Neculai Dulceanu is regarded as a sample contamination. See note on Terinte et al., 1998?. The case described by Deborah Altschuler is considered unproven unless an animal is provided. See note on Altschuler et al., 2004.
See also the discussion of the pareidolia phenomenon by Berenbaum (2005).

Berenbaum, M (2005) USA:
"This article [Altschuler et al., 2004] hit the entomo-l list-serve in November 2004 and generated a heated discussion over whether the images were real or rather were the result of well-meaning or misguided computer enhancement...". "In other words, collembolans in skin scrapings might be just another example of the phenomenon of pareidolia, 'a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct' (Carroll 2005," "Pareidolia is a widespread phenomenon and is in fact part of human culture.". "Entomologists are not immune from the phenomenon;...".

Christian, E. in Christiansen (1998 in 2001:in litt.) Germany & Austria:
"... [This] reminds me of several similar cases in Germany and Austria which turned out to be symptoms of what psychiatrists call 'Dermatozoenwahn' (delusional dermatozoonosis). This serious paranoid psychosis needs medical treatment, but patients usually refrain from visiting a competent doctor. They rather consult the parasitologist or (quite frequently) the entomologist, being often well-informed about their illusive parasites. ..."
"A wealth of medical litterature is available on this topic, but entomologists have not fully realized the problem as yet. I am confronted with two or three cases each year, because Collembola are among the frequently fancied plagues."

Desoubeaux G., Saada A., Bailly E., Guiguen C. & Chandenier J. (2014:628) France :
"We report a neurocutaneous case of delusional parasitosis involving atypical bugs called Collembola or "springtails". ... This short clinical note focuses on the medical risk for diagnostic confusion arising from the accidental discovery of insects in the human environment, especially when skin symptoms are reported. A correct entomological identification avoids misdiagnosis and enables better medical care. ... In this context, recurrent complaints of skin disorders caused by small bugs creeping under the skin should be considered as symptoms signaling psychiatric disease rather than a real entomological issue. These delusional parasitoses are described as part of Ekbom's syndrome, a type of psychosis in which subjects strongly believe they are infested."

Frye, F.L. (1997:12-15) USA:
"... During 1996 and early 1997 twenty supposed cases of human parasitism claimed to be associated with insects and other invertebrates, including but not limited to collembolans, were submitted initially to the National Pediculosis Association (NPA) and then submitted to me for microscopic identification and evaluation. Investigation of these patients and the objects that were recovered from them resulted in examination of over 1,000 individual specimens. In each instance, one or more physicians had diagnosed these patients as suffering from 'delusional parasitosis'. All of the patients -- and the NPA -- thought that this diagnosis was incorrect, and perceived it as being highly pejorative."
"... The variety of 'organisms' that were identified microscopically included: two intact collemobolans[sic] ('springtails'), one partial set of collembolan abdominal tergites with an intact spring-like furcula still attached, one lepidopteran larva ('caterpillar'), several ants, a tiny ichneumon wasp, numerous assorted coleopteran beetles (including flour beetles) and beetle body parts, several winged dipeteran flies and midges, empty flea egg cases, one neuropteran 'ant-lion' (which the patient swears she extracted from a sore on her face), one psocid 'book louse', numerous urticarial setae from dermestid carpet beetles, two spiders and several mites. [(fig. 1)]."
"... In analyzing over a year's effort to elucidate the cause of this puzzling spate of human suffering, it is now sufficiently clear to me that the collembolans that were initially blamed as the prime supects were unfairly maligned. Certainly, they (like so many other arthopods) possess hair-like setae which, when they come into contact with sensitive mammalian skin, can cause irritation and even florid urticaria."
"... In mid-1996, I was invited by the NPA and Harvard University's School of Tropical Medicine and Public Health to present a paper describing my findings. I entitled the lecture 'Evaluation of patients presenting with suspected pediculosis, scabies or delusional parasitosis'. In that lecture, I exhibited photo- micrographs of some of the organisms and inanimate objects that I had identified from the patients who were referred to me by the NPA. The final slide that I displayed was the quote by Dr. Daniel E. Koshland, former editor of the prestigious Science magazine, which I believe represents my reaction to this interesting foray into comparative medicine, 'The gene for unbridled dedication to a lost cause will always overwhelm the pure logic gene'. In a wide-ranging colloquial discussion following my presentation, I found that my colleagues at Harvard who also have examined microscopically numerous 'fibre bugs' and other self-collected specimens from patients believing themselves to be infested, had come to the same inescapable conclusion as I had that the vast majority of these unfortunate persons were tormented by a disorder that should most appropriately be treated by a sympathetic psychiatrist."

Delusional parasitosis is a misunderstood and increasingly common syndrome.

Human infestations due to sample contamination

Christiansen, K. & Bellinger, P. (1980:922) North America:
"Willowsia nigromaculata (Lubbock), 1873 ... This species is the commonest house springtail in North America, and has also been found in shallow caves and cave entrances; because of its abundance in laboratories, it is a common contaminant in samples, and records from other habitats are therefore suspect."

Mertens, J. (2004:in litt.) Belgium:
"In 1977, in a hospital in Ghent, an insect was reported regularly in 'sterile' cel cultures. It turned out that the isolation material of the laminar flow cabinet, in which the cultures were stored, hosted a healthy population of Entomobrya albocincta. Occasionaly, specimens were blown into the cabinet with the 'sterile' air."

Terinte, C., Dulceanu, N.I., Terinte, R. & Dobrescu, G. (1998?) Roumania:
Fig.3. Collembola sp.
Terinte, C., Dulceanu, N.I., Terinte, R. & Dobrescu, G. 1998?

"A 80-years-old woman presented with pruritus, insomnia, anxiety, paleness, weight loss (7 Kg in 6 months), and loss of appetite. In the lumbar region, on the buttocks, on the right posterior hemithorax and interdigitally on both feets she had small ulcers of 0.5-1 cm in diameter, surrounded by an indurated congestive or cyanotic, ovoid area of 1 x 1.5 cm. Small scars, with furfuraceous, dry and gray exfoliation on round and linear zones of 20-25 x 4-5 cm., were observed in the submammalian region. Linear short subepidermic truncated trajects were also observed. The microscopic examination of the hypodermic material obtained by scraping, revealed an adult Collembola spp. insect, eggs, cocoons of different colours, piles, a pupa, an exuvium and larvae. "
"In the epidermis spaces were present binding up larvae and nymphs. The horny layer was hyperkeratotic and included the adult insect."
"The blood gaps were probably caused by the histophagy of the insect."
"The adult insect, pink-reddish, measured 810 by 270 micron with antennas of 396 micron in lenght formed by four articles. The apical segment of the antennas was long with a scalp-like shape. All antenna segments were hairy. The head was anterior flattened and measured 216 by 126 micron. Both the head and the body of the insect were covered by short, thick, chitinous hairs grouped in tufts. Thick and flat tubercles were visible dorsally on the posterior part of the abdomen, while ventrally the jumping apparatus was located, with the furca, formed by two articles. The apparatus is obliquely and forward oriented and is covered by rare hairs and measures almost 2/3 of the abdomen lenght."

Note: After discussing the validity of the records with Dr Dulceanu, we reached the following consensus:
Since Collembola have no metamorphosis, the so-called larval and pupa stages found in the skin tissue do not belong to Collembola. The adult and only Collembola specimen is tentatively identified as Willowsia buski. Given Willowsia are typically domestic springtails, this unique specimen is considered to be a case of sample contamination.


Fig.4. Dicyrtomina saundersi from the UK on finger.
2007.11.18 © Edwards, A.
Collembola have never been incriminated in the transmission of human disease (Scott, 1966:19). Almost all of the validated cases of human infestations have involved Collembola in head hair. In most but not all of these cases the people involved have been associated with horses and it has been suggested (but never proven) that fungi associated with horses were growing on the hair and the Collembola were feeding on these. In all these cases the group involved was a member of the family Entomobryidae. In many but not all cases the infestation has been associated with mild to severe pruritis. There has been a single clearly validated case of a biologist, who had been actively aspirating Collembola in the arctic, getting an infestation of Collembola in his nasal passages (Hurd, 1954:814). Getting rid of these infestations has often proven to be very difficult.
In all of the cases mentioned above large numbers of active Collembola were seen and could easily be collected. The nasal passage infestation became apparent when Collembola appeared abundantly in the discharge of nose blowing. If live Collembola are involved in the various infestations than these should be visible to the naked eye on the surface (see fig.4).

There is no recorded case of a Collembola burrowing in anything anywhere or found imbedded in any tissue. Indeed they are morphologically and physiologically ill suited for this. Their respiration requires gaseous exchange through the cuticle, impossible if surrounded by a tissue. If there were forms burrowing in human tissue they should be highly specialised in form, such as having a narrow, elongated wormlike body with strongly reduced eyes, antennae, limbs and furcula and having highly modified mouthparts for byting through human skin and underlying tissue. Entirely different from the entomobryid surface forms, having well developed eyes, limbs and long furcula, as reported by Altschuler et al., 2004:87-95. Collembola that live in the soil are limited to the interstices of the soil between soil grains, those living on plants entirely to the surfaces. Where clays have very small spaces between grains, Collembola do not occur. Those living elsewhere are found only in cavities. The one case of an animal commensal lives with hermit crabs in the spaces between the animal and the adopted shell. It is highly morphologically specialised for this habitat and belongs to a very distinct genus and family. Thus if Collembola were in fact the cause of a crawling sensation on the skin they should be on the surface, visible to the naked eye and collectible. Since the specimens or putative fragments as reported by Altschuler et al., 2004:87-95 appear to be Entomobryidae or Isotomidae this is particularly true. (Christiansen & Bernard, 2008).

It is possible that there is an allergic reaction to Collembola tissue or integument on the part of some people which produces the crawling-on-skin irritation symptoms. If so that would be readily testable by smearing Collembola on small unaffected sections of skin of people known to be sensitive to the disease and seeing if there is a response. One record of a case of pruritis from the scales of the common Old World household Collembola - Seira domestica is known (Mertens in Christiansen, 1998 in 2001:in litt.).
Lim et al. (2009:1-5) showed that it is unlikely that the entomobryid Drepanura is the cause of dermatitis, either through an allergic or direct histaminic action.

Amin (2012:14) concluded that his early reports on a case with many facial opportunistic infections from Oklahoma (Amin, 1996) and the first naming and diagnosis of the Neuro-Cutaneous Syndrome (NCS) from 3 more cases, with a special reference to fibers and springtails (Collembola) (Amin, 2001), eventually established a link to dental toxins as the causative agents (Amin, 2003).

Control of domestic Collembola

The best control for springtails is to decrease humidity within the building, if possible, and to improve sanitation by not depositing food particles in cracks, crevices, and around floor edges. Large deposits of dust and lint should not be permitted to accumulate anywhere in the building. Moldly bedding, mattresses, couches, and chairs have been found to be good habitats for the Collembola. Spraying or dusting of infested surfaces, including potted plants, has been found to be effective, using common household insecticides. The plants should be watered only after the soil in the pots appears to be dry. (Ebeling, 1975)

Keeping the house dry is the best preventative measure.
Collembola will not reproduce in the house unless:
a) there are regions with over 80% relative humidity, and
b) there is an ample supply of something with fungal growth on it nearby.
When they come into the house they will either die shortly or move on so no heroic measures are worthwhile. Since they do not eat anything other than fungus or decaying plant material, carry no disease and do not attack humans, they are at worst a minor and temporary nuisance.

It should be avoided to use fungicidal, pesticidal or insecticidal treatments in the house. Such treatments kill also the natural enemies, such as spiders. After the treatment, the house will be invaded by all kinds of critters due to the abscense of these predators.

A harmless alternative against domestic springtails could be citronella-oil.
See: Students discover high acute toxicity of Citronella oil to springtails in a school practical at the VU (31 May, 2006).
According to this preliminary research springtails seem quite sensitive to citronella-oil. Citronella-oil is harmless for humans but seems deadly to springtails.
BSc students Marcel Deken, Jeroen Castricum and Oscar Franken of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, compared citronella-oil with three other citrus products in preference carousels. They discovered that citronella-oil is acutely toxic to Collembola: Orchesella cincta died within a few seconds after coming into contact with a substrate to which one droplet per 4 g of sand was added. The same dose of freshly pressed lemon juice was not avoided, even preferred in most cases. However, bottled lemon juice was avoided by the springtails. The best repellent effect was seen with a cleaning product called Citronell. The experiments clearly show that for citronella-oil, it is not the repellent effect of the lemon smell that causes an effect on springtails, but some highly potent toxin. Citronella-oil is not a citrus product at all, but an extract from Cymbopogon citratus, lemon-grass, a medicinal herb from South-East Asia with lemon fragrance and often used in the Thai kitchen. Extracts from this plant contain a great variety of secondary metabolites, including several terpenoids, but the nature of the toxin remains unknown to date.

Contact addresses

The National Pediculosis Association is a U.S.A. organisation that has a reporting registry that can be used to report undetermined symptoms that resemble lice and scabies infections.

The National Unidentified Skin Parasite Association is a U.S.A. organisation that offers message boards, discussion forums and a confidential questionnaire that can serve as a self support system for people with undetermined symptoms that resemble lice and scabies infections.

The Morgellons Foundation is a U.S.A. organisation that has a reporting registry that can be used to report undetermined symptoms that resemble lice and scabies infections.


We would like to thank - in alphabetical order - Deborah Altschuler, Omar Amin, Toby Barton, Peter Bellinger, May Berenbaum, Heidi and Filip Beutels, Frauke Büttner, Jos Bruers, Neculai Dulceanu, Martin Furmanski, Penelope Greenslade, Frieda Groothaert, Steve Hopkin, Mary Leitao, Johan Mertens, Chris Murbank, Sidney Presley and Katrien Vossaert for their contributions and constructive comments.


References with authors not in bold face have not been verified yet.


1 Specimen handling:
      Specimens of ectoparasites should be fixated in Gisin's fixative and preserved and shipped for identification in 70%-90% ethanol.
2 Gisin's fixative:
     95% ethanol750 ml
     di-ethyl ether250 ml
     glacial acetic acid30 ml
     40% formaldehyde3 ml